What is important for a defendant to remember is simply this: Never speak to authorities as the suspect in a criminal investigation without the physical presence of a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer. There is absolutely nothing to be gained form it. You are not going to talk your way out of charges. And, all too frequently, the statements you make are going to be some of the strongest evidence used against you in court.
If you keep that in mind, changes to Miranda won’t impact your rights as the high court continues to water down what has become a defendant’s most basic right over the last four decades.
“It’s death by a thousand cuts,” said Jeffrey Fisher, co-chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “For the past 20-25 years, as the court has turned more conservative on law and order issues, it has been whittling away at Miranda and doing everything it can to ease the admissibility of confessions that police wriggle out of suspects.”
The original ruling was issued in 1966 and emerged from police questioning of Ernesto Miranda in a rape and kidnapping case in Phoenix. Perhaps the court’s most famous ruling, it requires suspects to be told that they have the right to remain silent, that they have the right to an attorney, and that an attorney will be provided if they cannot afford one.
A trio of decisions issued this year have pruned back some of those rights. The court approved a warning used in parts of Florida that did not notify defendants of their right to an attorney during police questioning. In a separate ruling, the court found that Miranda rights are good for a period of 14 days after a defendant is released from custody. Previously, an assertion of Miranda rights was good forever. Now police can attempt to re-question a suspect after a period of 14 days, even if they asserted their right to remain silent or to have an attorney present. This has increasingly become an issue in cold-case homicide investigations, where law enforcement felt they were hampered by a suspect who asserted his rights decades ago.
Lastly, the court has ruled that a suspect must overtly respond in asserting the “right to remain silent,” just as they must tell police that they wish to have a lawyer present.
At least Justia Sonia Sotomayor found the irony.
“Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent — which counter intuitively requires them to speak,” she said. “At the same time, suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so.”
Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney Michael DelSignore represents clients facing all types of misdemeanor and felony charges.
The Law Offices of Michael DelSignore are conveniently located in Stoughton, Attleboro, Framingham and Westborough. Call (508) 455-4755 for a free consultation, 24 hours a day, including weekends and holidays.